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The Art of Racing - Almirola wins gas gamble
Last Sunday at Talladega Motor Speedway, the Stewart-Haas Racing program continued where it left off in Dover. SHR teams consisting of Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola were the fastest four cars all weekend as they qualified 1-2-3-4 respectively, and worked so well together that they immediately lined up one behind the other and raced ahead of the field almost the whole race. They were so dominant that they finished in the top-four positions in both stages.
On the pit stop after Stage Two, several cars beat SHR onto the track. It only took several laps for the SHR teams to resume their position at the front though. It appeared that the rest of the field, realizing the superiority of the four SHR drivers, meekly followed behind the four, not putting up much of a challenge.
Being a restrictor plate race, everyone was waiting for the crash that takes out half the field. It never came.
There were several one-car incidents before a five-car incident near the end changed what appeared to be a 1-2-3-4 finish for SHR. That incident caused the race to go into overtime.
The four SHR teams were close on fuel, gambling they could make it to the end of its scheduled conclusion. Harvick had to pit for fuel as the field came to the green flag. Several drivers ran out of fuel during the overtime run, including Kurt Busch, who was leading the race as they came to the white flag. Busch, the strongest of the SHR teams, finished 14th.
Busch was quick to place the blame on NASCAR’s shoulders, citing the decision to extend the final caution by one lap and then to not throw the caution and freeze the field when a couple of cars toward the back of the field crashed in turn one, which would have preserved the win for Busch. Several cars crashed in turn one on the final lap but NASCAR decided the field was in front of the wreck and not in any danger, so they let the field race to the finish.
With Harvick and Busch out of fuel, Almirola and Bowyer raced to the checkered flag with Almirola getting the victory.
“Today, the good Lord was shining on us, and we went to Victory Lane,” Almirola said. “We did it, finally.”
It’s the second win of Almirola’s career and his first at SHR. All four SHR Team drivers have now won and look pretty strong in the Championship Playoffs.
The third race in the second round concludes Sunday in Kansas, where four more teams will be eliminated. Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman are the bottom four. Bowman is so far out in points that he definitely needs to win at Kansas in order to move on.